Death Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything


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Death is a very bad thing that always happens when you least want it to, which is normally around the time when you're thinking everything's going quite well.

Only one man1 ever seems to have defeated death, but since he only hung around for three days, nobody got to ask him how he did it, because they were all so surprised that he had. Indeed, they all assumed somebody else had asked him, and only discovered the truth after he'd disappeared.

Death means the act of dying and/or the cessation of life. It can also refer to the cause of dying as in 'you'll be the death of me', or the manner of dying; as in 'a hero's death'.

There is brain death and clinical death. Brain death being defined as irreversible brain damage and loss of brain function, as evidenced by cessation of breathing and other vital reflexes, unresponsiveness to stimuli, absence of muscle activity, and a flat electroencephalogram2 for a specific length of time. Respiration may continue, but the only true use for the individual is as an organ donor. Clinical death occurs when a licensed physician states, after an examination, that a person has expired. A death certificate is then issued.

Death has had a profound effect on all civilisations throughout the mists of time. It has prompted many peoples to create religions simply to help deal with the tragic event. There are numerous versions of what happens to people after death3 and nobody can say with absolute certainty if any one belief is more correct than another. Death has also been personified, becoming more than just a process.


The act of dying has attracted plenty of colloquialisms. Here is how Monty Python, in a classic TV clip, described the death of a Norwegian Blue Parrot:

... stone dead, demised, passed on, no more, ceased to be, a stiff, bereft of life, snuffed it, up the creek and kicked the bucket, extinct in its entirety, an ex-parrot.

Listed below are a few more, not too serious, phrases you may hear, describing the passage from this life into the next...

  • Pushing up the daisies
  • Buying the farm
  • Shuffling off this mortal coil
  • Having a dirt nap
  • Going on holiday to Belgium
  • Going six feet under
  • Cashing in your chips
  • Becoming worm food or a 'worm buffet'
  • Going on a trip to Davey Jones' locker
  • Getting your ticket punched
  • Having your number come up
  • Pegging out
  • Going for the big or 'eternal' sleep
  • Paying your debt to nature
  • Checking out
  • Going to the happy hunting ground
  • Blinking for an incredibly long period of time
  • Cutting down expenses
  • Cultivating a maggot farm
1A certain Jesus Christ.2This is the reading of electrical activity in the brain.3Including the concept of being 'undead'.

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